Thursday, February 20, 2020

We Has Met the Enemy Part Five

The Earth Defense force’s first attempt to build a battleship was classic Dunning-Kruiger effect. They had never built a battleship before. They had built a fine series of cruisers, typified by the Luna. The Terrans though building a battle ship was simply a matter of scaling it up.

Of course several bureaus submitted designs. The design the Terrans chose initially was a monster, over four times the size of the Luna series. Engines delivered double the thrust. Four outrigger style secondary hulls to hold huge stores of ordinance for long duration battles. 

Megan Detwiler had registered strong doubts about the feasibility of the battleship design, the Electorates decision making powers, and the future of the human species. Soon after a succession of disasters involving gun turrets, field emitters, airlocks and the self esteem of a number of engineers, the Electorate ordered the designers to start from scratch. 

In a quandry, they turned to Admiral Buckner for advice. In the Admiral’s opinion, the Martians merely constructed battleships to goad the Terrans into building their own, rushing the job and wasting men, material. and time. In that regard they were succeeding brilliantly. War was coming, soon. If earth wanted a battleship they could have it but the design produced had better be built fast. Admiral Buckner said, “Get off your asses, figure out the biggest ship you can build in … eight months. Batter to have a ship than a prototype or plans on a drawing board.

The admiral’s words struck a chord. In fact they spurred the greatest alliance in earth’s history as structural avionic, weapon, propulsion, and operations engineers worked together!

The hull was the first consideration as it was the single largest expenditure of materials and time. One of the interns, Cornelius Chen, pointed out the Luna series used a standardized decks with the various conduits and wiring trunks lined up. The system was designed to allow easy modification of future cruisers for specialized roles. Why not merely place more decks in a stack for a longer more massive ship?

The intern was quickly put in his place as a mere intern. A longer ship would have the same cross sectional area, meaning engines would need modifications to be larger and longer. The ship would require larger heat radiators but the hull was already crowded and the tractor design of the thrusters would make placing such radiators difficult.

Regardless, they proceeded as using the existing standard deck system would save an enormous amount of time. There were existing decks in storage that could be diverted to the Triumph project. The intern was snapped up by Admiral Buckner. Intern Cornelius Chen was made an ensign and given further training under the Admiral’s mentoring.

Larger engines were already designed and prototypes built. A newer generation of radiators, with a higher operating temperature, was rushed to completion and testing. The center mounted R-field generator coils were replaced with four smaller field coils each atop an engine. Besides providing some redundancy, the coils also enhanced engine performance and could redirect the thrust to a limited extent.

The bad news was that there was a maximum size of engine that could be produced quickly, meaning that the triumph’s maximum displacement would be twice that of the Luna. On the other hand, it was unlikely larger hulls would be ready for the start of hostilities or even by the end of them. 

The ship was capped with a newly designed sensor and command center deck that was unceremoniously torn from the first uncompleted hull. A set of new airlocks with extendable tubes was installed as well since they were a modular design and could easily be removed from the hulk and reinstalled on the new design. Docks for fighters were supplied against the protests of what some engineers called mission creep. However, fighters were proven to work as ground support, moving in close where a ship would be endangered and wasting propellant. 

In the end several newer decks were designed expressly to hold additional fuel and engines.
Against all odds it hung together remarkably well, apart from the usual plumbing, electrical, and temperature issues. The crew didn’t not like the engines and R-generators being much harder to access, requiring spacesiited work for major repairs. The engineers were pleased they could lose a generator and keep going. The radiators were also problems requiring constant adjustment to avoid melting. This was not predicted to be a problem in combat as a meltdown would take longer than most combats would take. The crews chose to view this as a sign of trust in their battle prowess.

Firing arcs were still a mess. The only fixes for this involved some fancy maneuvering to turn the ship to fire a broadside at the enemy, then turning to minimize its target area. The pilots were elated at having more to do in combat. Humans were harder to second guess than computer programs. 

The Electorate was not as dim as the engineers had imagined. Battleships were largely a symbol of power and prestige. The Martians had three, Earth had to have at least one! More importantly, Mars was a world depending on shipments of foodstuffs, water and bioengineered life forms to maintain its fragile terraformed ecology. This meant many merchant ships shipping goods from Mercury, Venus, and the Belt. In the event of a war, Earth would certainly begin attacking these merchants. Defending the merchant ships required cruisers and smaller craft to be as many places as possible. This was the opposite of the battleship role in war: sit in port, train, sortie, blow-the-crap-out-of-something, return to port—repeat.

When the Terrans began their battleship program, the Martians panicked and commissioned three new battleships. This took away resources that could build three squadrons of destroyers or six to eight cruisers. As a result many Martian convoys were badly defended.

As for the Triumph and her sister ships, they were using resources that were quickly shifted back to cruiser builds. Admiral Buckner saw to that. Mars started the very short war with three battleships, and lost one of them almost immediately. The three under construction never saw action and were never completed. Where the Martian battleships flew, they reigned supreme. All two of them

Those Terran upstarts just hit the Martians every other place.

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